The Parasite and Killer Frost are transferred to Vandemeer University's Institute for Metahuman Studies. Dean Emily Rice offers Dr. Simon La Grieve the position as Head of the Institute. Ron returns to campus and is reunited with Lorraine. In Moscow, General Trofimov arrives at an emergency field hospital to find his daughter - Nina Arkadin. Killer Frost escapes when security guards try to change her restraining bracelet.
At Vandemeer University, Dr. Emily Rice and Dr. La Grieve walk in the halls of the Institute for Metahuman Studies. “I’m so glad you could make the trip up from Belle Reve, Dr. La Grieve,” Dr. Rice says. Students crowd the hallway on their way between classes.
“The subjects you requested, Dean Rice, are technically Belle Reve’s responsibility,” Dr. La Grieve replies. “Mrs. Waller wasn’t about to send them up without a keeper. I must say, I rather like this building.”
“It was our Administration Building at one time,” Dr. Rice explains. “I had hoped to get a new building for the Institute of Meta-human Studies. But that may be a little ways down the road.”
“Oh, I think you did the right thing - - outfitting the place with the right diagnostic equipment, getting some highly qualified personnel - -,” Dr. La Grieve observes.
“The equipment was largely donated by S.T.A.R. Labs. This is their outmoded stuff, if you can believe that.” Dr. Rice replies as she leads Dr. La Grieve into a room filled with monitoring equipment. “Jenet Klyburn actually apologized for sending us ‘junk’ and promised we would be getting things more on the cutting edge as soon as we ‘got established’. Incredible!”
“I’m impressed,” Dr. La Grieve says as he surveys the room and equipment.
“Then you’ll concede that bringing some of your prisoners here for examination is not such a bad idea after all?” Dr. Rice asks.
“No,” Dr. La Grieve quickly answers, adjusting his glasses.
“But why not?” Dr. Rice asks. They walk into the hall and down the stairs.
“Dean Rice, Belle Reve is a holding facility, whose purpose is incarcerating the super-powered felon. It is mercifully far removed from population centers,” Dr. La Grieve explains. “This is a school in the middle of a large city. Your primary purpose is knowledge - - not security. I have nightmares about what would happen if either of this pair escaped.”
They walk into the basement and approach a security desk. “Hi, Doc,” the on-duty security guard says as they approach.
“Hi, Joe,” Dr. La Grieve answers. “If we’ve got the patients secured, I’d like Dean Rice to take a look.”
“Fine by me, so long as you don’t block my view,” Joe answers. He sits in front of several monitoring screens.
“Here, Dean Rice. Take a look. I’d like you to meet what you’ve brought on campus,” Dr. La Grieve says. He leads Dr. Rice to view the security monitors. On the screens, images of two prisoners in holding cells are visible.
“That’s the Parasite. We know nothing of his origin,” Dr. La Grieve explains. The Parasite lies on his cell bed, staring up at the ceiling. “He leeches energy from any living being within roughly a twenty foot radius, usually killing them in the process,” Dr. La Grieve continues.
“It’s the energy that makes him important - - how does the meta-human differ from the normal human? Can that energy be analyzed - - duplicated?” Dr. Rice asks. “That’s part of the purpose of IMHS - - to do a controlled creation of a meta-human.”
“Perhaps you can feed him some of hers,” Dr. La Grieve suggests, nodding at the other prisoner on an adjacent monitor screen.
“That’s Killer Frost, then?” Dr. Rice asks. The Ice Maiden lies on her cell bed. Icicles hang from the walls around her.
“The second by that name, yes,” Dr. La Grieve explains. “Real name, Dr. Louise Lincoln. Supposedly, she believes that her friend, the original Killer Frost, deserved to live more than she. So, Dr. Lincoln replicated the experiment and submerged her own personality in the Killer Frost persona.”
“Why do you say ‘supposedly’?” asks Dr. Rice.
“Because I don’t for a second believe it,” Dr. La Grieve replies. “We’ve analyzed the Thermofrost experiment that supposedly created the two Frosts. We even ran computer simulations. Given the facts as we know them, there is no way either could have survived the process. It should have killed them instantly.”
“We should be replacing her bracelet soon, Doc,” Joe reports.
“Okay, Joe. I’ll authorize it for tomorrow,” Dr. La Grieve replies.
“Bracelet?” Dr. Rice asks.
“Security bracelet. Modified from what is used with the Suicide Squad,” Dr. La Grieve explains. He shows her an example. “If Killer Frost were to break free, the implanted explosives would blow her arm off - - and she knows it. Adjusted so that if she used her cold powers on it, it would also trigger the payload. That - - and the fact we keep her cell cold - - keeps her reasonably docile.”
“I’m impressed,” Dr. Rice replies. “With you, as well as the security measures. Tell me, Dr. La Grieve, how would you like to become the head of IMHS?”
“What?! You’re jesting, surely!?” Dr. La Grieve blurts.
“Nope. You’ve been working with the metahuman and costumed criminal psyche down there in the swamps,” Dr. Rice explains. “You already know some of what we’re trying to learn. You’re the best qualified man for the job - - maybe the only one.”
“I - - I don’t know,” Dr. La Grieve says, surprised by the unexpected offer.
“Simon - - may I call you Simon?” Dr. Rice continues. “Given the current Senate investigation into the Suicide Squad, you may not have a job to go back to! At least think about it!”
“I can assure you, I will be thinking a great deal about it,” Dr. La Grieve replies.
“Good! And before you leave tomorrow, I’d like to introduce you to the ones most responsible for getting IMHS launched - - a former professor here named Martin Stein,” Dr. Rice says. “Oh, and his keeper - - Ron Raymond.”
“’Keeper’?” asks Dr. La Grieve.
Elsewhere on campus. Ron walks along the sidewalk. Students mill about talking, studying, and heading to class. “Well, this feels weird!” Ron thinks. “I mean, it really hasn’t been all that long since I got booted out, but - - man! It feels like another lifetime!”
“Ron!” a voice calls out.
Ron turns to see a familiar face running up to hug him. “Lorraine!” he replies with a smile. She leaps into his arms. “You look terrific! What - - ? Mmpphh!” Lorraine cuts him off with a passionate kiss. Students nearby burst into applause for the happy couple.
Ron leads her away from the gathering of students. “Lorraine, you look terrific!” he whispers. “What happened? I mean, last time I saw you..!”
“I had radiation poisoning - - I know!” Lorraine explains. “It was that alien bomb thingee - - the one that made everyone’s superpowers go nuts. It affected me, too - - my heat powers went wild! Nearly melted down a suburb! But it seems to have burned the radiation out of me as well!”
“Flamehead was in Red Square when it hit,” Ron tells her. “Some innocent people got transmuted - - killed - - in the process. We felt their deaths in the psychic backlash. It felt like we were killing ourselves.”
“Oh, Ron - - I’m so sorry!” Lorraine replies.
“It got worse. We couldn’t fission. We were trapped like that until after they administered the antidote,” Ron continues. “We haven’t tried to form Firestorm since. Lorraine - - I don’t know if we can.”
Moscow. “Thank you for the use of your couch, brother,” Mikhail says. He lounges on the couch at his brother Alexander’s apartment.
“You have to sleep somewhere, Mikhail,” Alexander replies. “Housing has never been abundant and the destruction we suffered during this alien invasion has only worsened the situation.”
“It’s your wife’s attitude I don’t understand,” Alexander’s wife, Sylvia, says. “I mean, you have suffered these blackouts before, yes? She’s accepted it before - - why not now? Granted, you were not home when that bomb went off and hurt your children, but that’s hardly your fault, yet, Nina acts as though it were - - and that’s most unusual for her.”
“Uh-oh! Mom smells a rat!” Serafina adds. “Dad you can snow, but once you get Mom suspicious - - forget it! Believe me - - I know what I’m talking about!”
“Nina and I have undergone a great deal of pressure in our marriage, as you know,” Mikhail explains. “My latest - - ‘blackout’ - - and the injury to the children have merely triggered our current separation, not caused it.”
“And she would rather stay at the emergency shelter than with us here?” Alexander asks.
“For now, brother, it would seem so,” Mikhail answers.
Nearby, two uniformed soldiers walk into Emergency Field Hospital 407 in Gorky Park. Dr. Podgorny adjusts a patient’s leg cast. “In here, General Trofimov,” Podgorny tells the soldiers. “Down the third row, beds 221 and 222. You will tell the authorities how helpful I have been, won’t you? Remember, my name is Podgorny. P – O - -…”
General Trofimov walks into the tent. “Nina Leonidova Arkadin,” he calls as he approaches bed 221 and 222.
“Who - - ?” Nina asks, turning to face the voice. Suddenly she leaps to her feet and runs to the General. “Papa!” she blurts as she hugs him tightly.
“Hush, my love. Hush, my dove,” Trofimov tells her. He turns to the other soldier. “Konstantin, gather your nieces. We leave at once,” he directs.
“Papa, where are we going?” Nina asks.
“Home, Nina. I’m taking you home,” Trofimov explains.
Vandemeer University. Late afternoon. Students head for class. At the Institute for Metahuman Studies, it is shift change at the guard station. “Yo, Joe,” the oncoming guard says as he arrives for his shift.
“’Ey, Tony. How’s it going?” Joe replies.
“Could be better,” Tony answers. “We gotta switch bracelets on Frost again. Authorization came in.”
Behind the men, out of their view, a shadow is silhouetted on the wall near their desk. Hands appear and quickly grab the bracelet. An instant later, another bracelet takes its place.
“Ah, keep to routine and you’ll be okay. What could go wrong?” Joe asks.
“Keep an eye on me, buddy,” Tony says as he takes the bracelet.
“I’ll keep two. She makes a false move and I’ll hit the chiller and make her think Antarctica is Miami Beach!”
Killer Frost sits on the bed in her cell. Tony’s face appears in the window of the cell door. He unlocks the heavy door and walks into the icy cell.
“Hello, Dr. Lincoln. Time to change the bracelet,” he tells her. Mist forms from his mouth as he exhales. “Can I have your free arm, please?”
“’mn not Linco’n…’mn…Kill’r Frost!” she replies as she holds out her arm.
“Dr. La Grieve’s orders, Dr. Lincoln,” Tony explains. “We’re not to reinforce your delusions. Other arm please.” He wraps the bracelet around her arm and locks it in place.
“Not…illusion! ‘S a fact!” Frost says.
“No, ma’am. That’s your fantasy,” Tony replies.
Joe watches them closely on his monitor screen. “What the - - ?” he gasps. He snatches an intercom microphone. “Tony!” he transmits to his colleague. “Get out of the room! I’m getting a negative reading on that new bracelet! It’s not live!”
Tony’s eyes grow wide in fear. Killer Frost sits up and a sly grin forms on her lips. She glares at Tony and lifts her hands up. KRAK! The bracelets shatter away from her wrists! She jumps up and grabs Tony. Pulling him close, she kisses the stunned guard. Instantly, Tony freezes solid!
“HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!” Frost laughs maniacally. She shoves Tony’s frozen form away from her. He falls. SMASHHH! Tony’s body shatters in a cascade of ice fragments!
“That’s it! You’re headed for Freon City, lady!!!” Joe thinks in alarm. He pushes a large red button on his control panel. SSSSSSSSS! In the cell, freon gas hisses from refrigeration units. Killer Frost walks towards the cell door. WHAM! She blows the door off its hinges!
“’It’s only a prototype,” they told me,” Joe thinks, reaching for a rifle. “’It’s modeled after Captain Cold’s weapon. It works but we’re not sure why. Use it only in an extreme emergency.’” Killer Frost emerges from the cell walking towards him. “I think this qualifies!” he says. He aims the experimental rifle and pulls the trigger. ZAAAP! A ray of cold beams out of the barrel.
Killer Frost stretches a hand and fires a cold burst. The burst shoots forward and smashes into the rifle beam. BAROOM! The beam is overpowered, and a wave of cold smashes into Joe. “AAAAGH!” he cries out.
“Never again,” Frost says. She touches a hand to Joe, freezing him solid. “My captivity was a half-life and I’ll never go back to it! I’d rather die - - or kill.” She turns to walk up the stairs. “I am free and I am myself - - Killer Frost - - and I’ll never cede either again!”
“So this is IMHS,” Lorraine asks. She and Ron walk into the building’s stairway.
“Uh-huh,” Ron answers. “Most of the personnel start arriving next week. Martin comes in tomorrow. Would you believe the lease hadn’t run out on his old apartment building yet? He’d paid it up in advance and no one thought to sub-let it. C’mon, Lorraine, I’ll give you the twenty-five cent tour of the upstairs.”
Ron and Lorraine start up the stairs. Coming up behind them from the basement is Killer Frost. “You know, it’s kind of weird being back at Vandemeer and not being a student,” Ron says. “I thought about taking a night class or two - - I think I’d be more serious about studying now - - but here’s the problem: How do I juggle class and being Firestorm?”
“Ron, you’re not alone on this, you know,” Lorraine replies. “There is Firehawk, you know!”
Ron looks over his shoulder. “Oh Cripes!” he whispers in shock. He grabs Lorraine and covers her mouth with his hand. “”Get over here - - quick!” he whispers.
“Mmmmmmph!” Lorraine mumbles, looking down behind them with widened eyes.
“That’s Killer Frost! What’s she doing walking free?” Ron whispers. They crouch on the stairway landing. Killer Frost walks toward a hallway with her back to them.
“I don’t suppose it’s an Institute experiment, is it?” Lorraine whispers.
“They’re not starting until next week,” Ron explains softly.
“I was afraid of that,” Lorraine whispers. “You contact your Russian half while I turn into…Firehawk!” In a flash of fire and light, Firehawk appears!
“Mikhail! Firestorm…needed. Safe?” Ron thinks quickly.
“Yes! Go!” Mikhail answers.
FZAAAM! In a burst of light, Firestorm appears. But something is wrong! “YAAAARG!” he cries out. He staggers and nearly falls.
“Ron! What happened?!” Firehawk gasps. Firestorm fades away in an instant. Ron kneels on the stairway landing. Firehawk huddles next to him.
“Wellll…Hello!” Killer Frost says as she walks up the stairs towards them. Ice hangs from her hand to the floor. “Of all the people I could’ve run into just now, darling girl - - you’re the one I need!” she says with a smile. “But first - - let’s make sure we’re not disturbed, hmmm?” SCHRAK! She fires a burst of cold at Ron!
“YAHHHHG!” Ron cries out as the burst hits. Ice quickly starts to form over his body.
“Ron!” Firehawk yells. ZZZZZZZ! She waves a wing, washing Ron with heat. KRAK! The ice breaks away from his body!
“It’s important to you to save this man?” Killer Frost asks. “Fine. I need your heat! Give it to me darling, and he lives. Deny me - - and he dies!”
“Fine. You want heat?” Firehawk asks. “I’ll give you heat!!!” She lunges down the stairs at Killer Frost. FZZZZZK! Firehawk’s hands land on Frost’s shoulders in a blast of heat.
“Uhnnn!” Frost groans as she falls to the floor. Firehawk turns back and lands. Frost gets back to her feet and faces Firehawk. “A pity, Firehawk!” Frost tells her. “Ours could have been a beautiful relationship!” Zip! Zip! Zip! Zip! Frost waves her hands and fires a barrage of ice daggers!
“I’ve got no room to maneuver here. The advantage is all hers!” Firehawk thinks. “I’ve got to lure her outside!” She waves a wing. Krak! Krak! The ice daggers hit her wing and fall to the floor. Firehawk flies down the hall to the lobby doors.
“Running away, Firehawk?” Frost asks smugly. She points at Ron. “Aren’t you forgetting something? Your friend is still inside with me!”
Firehawk looks over her shoulder. Ron lies against the stairway railing, shivering violently. Ice still covers part of his face and body. “…Lor…Lorraine…?” he gasps. Killer Frost starts up the stairs towards Ron.
“Leave him alone, you witch!” Firehawk yells as she flies up behind her.
Killer Frost turns and snatches Firehawks’s wrists. “No problem, my pet!” Frost says. She lunges off the stairs, driving both her and Firehawk to the landing. CRASH! They land and Frost pins Firehawk against the floor.
“She’s killing Lorraine!” Ron thinks. “I’ve got to do something! But what?”
Ice forms over Firehawk and glistens on her face. She struggles against Frost’s icy strength. “R-Ron! Niagara Falls! Niagara Falls!” Firehawk yells.
Ron stands quickly. “’Niagara Falls?’” he asks. He looks around quickly. “Wait a minute,” he thinks. “I get it! ‘Sloooooowly I turned…’”
On the wall next to him is a fire hose mounted in a glass covered metal case. KRASH! Ron punches his hand through the glass. “That’s where we fought Plastique and Killer Frost!” he thinks as he grabs the fire hose and nozzle. “And Lorraine beat Frost by dunking her in the Niagara and letting Frost’s own cold powers freeze her up!”
Ron spins the water valve and aims the nozzle down the stairs. FLOOOSH! Water sprays out in a tight, heavy stream and smashes into Killer Frost’s back. “AAAAHHH!” she cries out as the force of the water drives her off of Firehawk.
“Firehawk! Turn off the heat!” Ron yells, holding the water stream on Frost.
“FIREHAWK!” she yells, instantly turning back into Lorraine.
“NOOOOOO!” Killer Frost yells as her heat source suddenly disappears. Ron pours the water stream onto her. Ice begins to form on and around her. “No…No!” Frost cries out. “I won’t…go back to that half-life! Kill me! Kill me! I DON’T WANT TO LIVE THAT WAAAAY!”
The ice rapidly encases her and her voice goes silent. Ron shuts off the water nozzle and reaches for Lorraine. “DON”T MOVE!” yells a security guard. He and several other guards rush into the room with their guns drawn. Dr. La Grieve follows closely.
“There were two men downstairs!” La Grieve tells the guards. “See what happened to them! And check the Parasite’s cell!” He walks over and examines the frozen form of Killer Frost.
“Cripes! Whatcha do to her?” a guard asks Ron.
“Froze her. Worked for the Blob,” Ron replies.
“We have to secure Frost in cold and fast!” La Grieve warns. “And then I want to know exactly what happened here!”
“I’m worried about what didn’t happen here!” Lorraine whispers. “Ron, what’s the matter with Firestorm?!”
“He refused to meld,” Ron whispers back. “The psychic feedback we received when we transmuted those innocents is affecting the core-mind! I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to become Firestorm again!”